Downtown chapel provides nurturing of faith

March 11, 2014

HOUSTON — This Lenten season, Pope Francis has asked Catholics worldwide to reflect upon the Scripture, “He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” (II Corinthians 8:9) We are asked, like Jesus, to give up everything in pursuit of sharing our richness of faith with others. 

Holy Cross Chapel, marking its 32nd anniversary this month on Ash Wednesday, has provided many busy professionals who work in downtown Houston with a place where they may discover a nurturing of their faith so they can imitate Christ to others.

According to Father Jerry Jung, director of the chapel, approximately 75 professionals visit the chapel daily. 

It is one of only a few downtown chapels in the United States and there are no registered parishioners. It is also one of the 60 ministries in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF). 

“People of all walks of life, Catholic and non-Catholic, visit this beautiful place in the midst of busy downtown to rest, pray and be still,” Father Jung said. “Drawn by the huge crucifix over the altar that is lit day and night, they are reminded that Christ’s life and death is what lifts us from our poverty to the riches of His grace and heavenly kingdom.”

One such professional who has attended Holy Cross Chapel since it was founded by Monsignor Albert Beck is Harry Lee. 

Lee has been working in downtown Houston for most of the past 33 years and recalls the early years when Mass was celebrated in the basement of the building at 905 Main Street. 

“What the chapel has provided for me through the years is the constant nurturing of my faith,” said Lee. “In addition to attending Mass throughout the week, as an advocate of frequent confession, I use Holy Cross Chapel for the Sacrament of Reconciliation since a priest is almost always available during the day. I’ve been blessed to be involved in the ministry at Holy Cross Chapel as a lector, altar server and Eucharistic Minister.”

Lee believes this involvement in the liturgical ministries at the chapel has been a great way to share the faith with his fellow Catholics and serves as a daily reminder of how he is called to live out his witness to Christ. 

He said the chapel has served as his anchor in the middle of downtown Houston.

“If I need to get away for a few quiet minutes with the Lord, I go to the chapel,” said Lee. “If I want to find some good spiritual reading, I go to the bookstore in the chapel. If I want to reflect on the daily readings, I know I will hear good homilies from the priests who celebrate Mass at the chapel.”

For three decades, the chapel’s mission has remained the same — to serve as a worship and resource center for Catholics who work in downtown Houston as well as for visitors, thereby deepening their spiritual lives through the sacraments, prayer, counseling and knowledge. 
It also serves as a point of entry for non-Catholics desiring to learn more about the Church in a welcoming environment.

In 2001, the Archdiocese purchased the building, and in December 2005, after much prayer and hard work, the 135-seat chapel was opened on the ground floor. 

Father Jung is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei and he is assisted by Father Paul Kais and Father Chris Schmitt, also priests of Opus Dei. In addition, Archdiocesan priests and bishops regularly offer one of the two daily Masses. 

The chapel, which is open Monday through Friday, also offers confession, spiritual direction, devotions, such as for First Friday, daily Rosary, a prayer line, weekly prayer for the holiness of our children, and recollections for men and women. 

There is also a bookstore featuring the best of Catholic reading as well as religious articles for sale to chapel visitors and the community.
Holy Cross hosts the Business Ethics Forum which invites business leaders to discuss real-life work events from a Catholic perspective as well as the Thomas More Society which investigates legal opinions from the same. 

Catholicism 101, a class on different topics of faith, is offered bi-weekly, and there are Lenten and Advent Forums for men and women, ENDOW study courses for women, and brown bag lunch talks. 

During Lent, the Stations of the Cross are prayed after the 12:15 p.m. Mass.

Lee said that he will continue his involvement with the chapel. 

“Even during the five years I was posted overseas, I managed to keep in touch with (the former director) Father Michael Barrett and my friends at Holy Cross,” Lee said. “Still today, the chapel is the best part of my work day in downtown. I block out time on my calendar to attend Mass and Reconciliation, and I don’t feel that my day is complete without spending some time in the chapel.”